Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Under Clean Air Act Could be Devastating for U.S. Agriculture
WASHINGTON – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is deeply concerned about the potential impacts that a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finding could have on livestock operations. EPA’s finding—which proposes that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are an endangerment to public health and welfare—is the first step in a process that could require GHG regulation under the Clean Air Act (CAA).
The CAA is fundamentally ill-suited for GHG regulation and NCBA is opposed to any attempts to use it for this purpose.
“While the Clean Air Act has done a good job of cleaning up pollutants, it is not adequately equipped to address global climate change,” explains NCBA Chief Environmental Counsel Tamara Thies. “Congress never intended to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and any attempts to use it for this purpose would be devastating for the U.S. economy.”
If the Administration and Congress decide to regulate GHGs, a cap-and-trade program would be more appropriate, rather than the CAA’s command-and-control regulatory program.
“If the EPA moves forward with this finding, the agency would have unprecedented control over every sector of the U.S. economy,” says Thies. “Regulation of greenhouse gases should be thoughtfully considered and voted on by Congress. Allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act would impose untenable burdens, expenses and restrictions on industry, families, and our Nation as a whole.”
While agricultural sources are currently generally not required to obtain permits for greenhouse gas emissions, regulation of GHGs under the CAA may for the first time trigger such regulation. According to the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, released last year by the Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that “even very small operations would meet the 100 tons per year emissions threshold to require regulation. For example, dairy facilities with over 25 cows, beef cattle operations of over 50 cattle, swine operations with over 200 hogs, and farms with over 500 acres of corn may need to get a Title V permit.”
“Given the fact that America currently has over 2,000,000 farms, it would be virtually impossible to permit a majority of them,” says Thies. “The amount of paperwork, time delays, and new technology needs would be insurmountable. In addition, most of America’s agricultural producers simply would not be able to afford the regulatory compliance costs that would be imposed on them under such a program, and they would be forced out of business.”
According to the EPA, in 2006, GHG emissions from the entire agriculture sector represented only 6.4% of total U.S. GHG emissions in Tg CO2 Eq. (Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2006, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, April 15, 2008). At the same time, land use, land use change, and forestry activities resulted in a net carbon soil sequestration of approximately 14.8% of total U.S. CO2 emissions, or 12.5% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This means that agriculture provides a significant net benefit to the climate change equation.
“Rather than being subject to overly-burdensome regulations, agriculture should be considered part of the solution to the climate change issue,” says Thies. “Agricultural operations can serve as an important source of carbon offsets to enable regulated industries to comply with any cap set by climate change legislation.”
NCBA plans to submit comments to EPA during the upcoming 60-day public comment period.